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May's FEATURED AUTHOR: James Rollins!

May 5, 2010
Today we have May's Featured Author, James Rollins, stopping by to answer a few questions. No, I did not put him in a torture device, he actually did this of his own free will. I think he has a fan here for life. (Yes, I'm easy to please!)

About James:
James Rollins is the really cool author of lots of books, as James Rollins, and James Clemens. I'd post them here, but that would make this post really long! Come back next week for his bibliography... He also did the novelization of the blockbuster movie Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which is where the picture on the right comes in.

When James is not writing, touring, teaching seminars, or making presentations, he can be found spelunking, scuba diving, hiking, and/or traveling. Rolllins and his two- and four-legged family members live amid chew toys and paleontological treasures in Northern California. Find him online at his website,

Now, are you ready to check out what James has to share with us? I love this interview, I hope you do too! Read on!

drey: When did you know you wanted to be an author? What were you doing? Was it a gradual realization, or a “big bang” event?

Jim: I’d say gradual, like something buried in my genetic code that slowly expressed itself. From a young age, I was always the storyteller in the family (what my Mom called being the “Liar” of the family). I was always terrifying my siblings with stories of Martians loose in the neighboring cornfields and of a ventriloquist doll that would wake at night and wander the house looking for blood. I also read a lot growing up, but I’d say it was junior high when I truly began setting pen to paper and truly considered writing for a living. But I never considered writing as a real career. I thought you had to have some literary pedigree to be a successful author, the son of Hemingway or Fitzgerald. So instead I turned to my other passion for a career: veterinary medicine.

But I made one mistake. I continued to read--and that little twisted corner of my imagination never fully died away. Eventually I began to write. My clients would ask me at the time, “So Dr. Jim why aren’t you writing something like James Herriott, something like All Creatures Great and Small?” My answer was simple: not enough people die in those James Herriott novels. I wanted adventures and thrills. I was working fourteen hours a day as a vet. I didn’t want to go home and write about a vet. So instead I wrote about historical mysteries, scientific intrigue, and adventures set in exotic locales. I basically let that twisted corner of my imagination loose on the world. Sorry about that.

drey: Can you share your first sale experience with us?

Jim: Like most writers early in the process, I began collecting a huge pile of rejection notices. I kept them in a shoebox at first, but eventually had to go to a file box, fearing that I might eventually have to resort to a refrigerator box. But I kept writing and submitting and honing my craft.

Then in the summer of 1996, I signed up for the Maui Writers Conference, ready to learn more about the writing business. During that summer I also began work on a fantasy series. I wrote the first 200 pages and decided to submit it to the conference’s writing contest. What the heck? What could it hurt?

So as Labor Day rolled around, I packed up my bags and dreams, and headed for the sunny shores of Maui. On the first day of the conference, at a meet-and-greet cocktail party, I spotted one of my idols: Terry Brooks, international best-selling author of the Shannara fantasy series. I approached him and thanked him for writing such wonderful novels. (*squeal* Terry Brooks' Shannara series got me started on fantasy)

He, in turn, glanced to my nametag and said. “Oh, I’m a fan of yours, too.”

I didn’t know what Terry Brooks was talking about, so I just laughed nervously as if I understood his joke (because that’s what you do when you meet one of your childhood idols).

He responded matter-of-factly, “No, I’m serious. I was one of the judges for this year’s contest. And here’s my publisher. He’d like to talk to you.”

From that meeting, a three-book deal for my fantasy series was eventually struck. In that single weekend, my life changed.

drey: Who and/or what inspires your writing? How do you get from idea to pages?

Jim: Inspiration? There’s an old adage that whatever music you liked in your youth is the music you like the rest of your life. And that’s probably a bit true for books (at least for me). In high school and college, I became addicted to those old pulp novels from the thirties and forties. They were being reprinted by Bantam books at the time: The Shadow, The Spider, The Avenger. I still have all 181 Doc Savage reprints in my library at home. I was absolutely in love with those old “scientific adventure” novels. On some unconscious level, I think I’ve been trying to bring back those old dime adventure stories, recast into the present, adapted to modern technologies, and given a polish.

Other influences include Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and H. Rider Haggard. But for more current influences, I would definitely have to include the mainstays of thriller fiction: Crichton, King, and Cussler.

As to getting ideas onto a page, that’s the fun and magic of writing. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth and nothing works. Other times, it’s like flowing gold. And each day as I sit down at the keyboard, I have no idea which it’s going to be.

drey: What do you indulge in when not writing?

Jim: I love to get out in nature in whatever capacity I can. Whether it’s simply taking my Golden Retriever for a hike, or something more daring like mountain climbing or kayaking a white-water river. Writing is a profession done by the seat of your pants (ie., sitting in a chair all day). So when I need to recharge, I open the door and get as far away from that office as I can. (I so need to do the same... I might even like my day job again!)

drey: What is your favorite accompaniment to chocolate?

Jim: Okay, I’m glad you asked that as I have a personal peeve: chocolate and fruit. Whether it’s strawberries dipped in chocolate or something equally wrong, it must stop. I’m a chocolate purist. Dark chocolate (maybe a few nuts or toffee bits) that’s all you need. If you have to accompany chocolate, pair it with a nice port wine. I’m now climbing off my soapbox. (nooooooooooooooo! I shall not admit here that I love dark chocolate + raspberry, or dark chocolate + chili...)

drey: Screen versions of your books: Which book(s) would you like to see on screen? TV series vs. Movie? Who would be on your dream team?

Jim: I personally would love to see Amazonia made into a movie, mostly just because of all the strange animals in that book. In that book, a mutagen gets loose in the jungle and begins mutating jungle animals. For example, I cross a river piranha with a poisoned dart frog to create an amphibious poisonous creature with an appetite for flesh. While the current CGI technology could turn that book into a killer movie. I’d mostly like to see this book made into a movie because of McDonald’s tie-in: “Buy a Happy Meal, get a plushy piranha-frog for your kid!” (lol! my kid would so love that!)

As to dream team, it’s simple: Spielberg, Spielberg, Spielberg (okay, I love James Cameron, too). Whatever the cast, I’d love to do a cameo in the movie…perhaps being chased by a piranha-frog.

drey: Electronic readers are becoming more affordable and available. There's been quite a bit of discussion about their impact on paper books, the environment, people's reading & buying habits... What's your take?

Jim: There’s definitely a paradigm shift going on in the industry. My feeling is that once all the dust settles that a big chunk of the book-buying will be electronic, but publishing in book form will remain the predominant media of consumption. A large audience still likes to collect physical books, to get copies signed, to have copies on a shelf to cherish, especially the most avid readers. All this can’t be replaced by a digital copy made up of electrons. There’s a tangibility to books that will survive this paradigm shift. Yes, some market share will be lost, changes will need to be made, but in the end, books will survive.

drey: On the publishing side--what do you think publishers and authors ought to do about the digital revolution? Jump in wholeheartedly, and blaze the path for others to follow? Watch from the sidelines till there's some consensus on what the new business model is going to be for the digital age? Cross their fingers that this is all just a fad & will blow over soon?

Jim: If you sit on the sidelines, you’ll be passed by. Established authors have to take chances, experiment with the new media. We’ve seen Stephen King do this. More authors must follow in his footsteps. Likewise, new authors have nothing to lose and so much to gain by grasping the reins of this new revolution, to take more control over their own careers, independent of the big publishers. With this new revolution, the door has swung wide open for authors to utilize innovative ways to bring their stories to new audiences. To me, it’s an exciting time.

drey: What are you looking forward to next?

Jim: Rest, sleep. After writing three books in 2009 (The Doomsday Key, Jake Ransom and the Skull King’s Shadow, and Altar of Eden) and two novellas for a pair of anthologies, I’m ready for some down time.

To bring this to a close, the Proust-lite:
  1. What is your idea of earthly happiness?
    Piled on the couch with both dogs with a new episode of Lost on the TV
  2. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
    Having a computer glitch that erases a section of a story I’ve written. It is a private, personal Hell to try to recreate what you’ve already written.
  3. Who is/are your favorite hero/heroine(s) in fiction?
    Indiana Jones probably tops the list for me. Then again I might be slightly prejudiced as I wrote the novelization to the last movie.
  4. Who is/are your favorite hero/heroine(s) in real life?
    My mom. She raised seven kids on a household income that never got about 40K. She found the most innovative uses for ground beef. Plus she was the only who instilled my love of reading. She was an avid reader and by example I became one, too. She’s now declining from dementia, but she still reads every one of my books and scolds me for the occasional bit of foul language. 
  5. What sound do you love?
    The quiet noises along a hiking trail. I’ll often just stop, close my eyes, and listen.
  6. What sound do you hate?
    My cell phone ringing. Cell phones are a modern necessity and a curse.
  7. The quality you admire most in a man?
    Stupidity. If we didn’t do stupid things sometimes, the world would be a duller and less evolved place. Necessity may be the mother of invention—but sometimes stupidity stumbles upon innovation that no one was looking for.
  8. The quality you admire most in a woman?
    Patience. For tolerating and putting up with the answer above.
  9. If not a writer, you would be a ...
    I’d happily return to being a full-time veterinarian.
  10. What is your favorite swear word?
    Frak. Because I’m just THAT much of a Battlestar Galactica fan.
Thank you so very much for stopping by and doing this interview, James! I have Altar of Eden on my shelves right now, I can't wait to read it! What do y'all think? Isn't he totally cool?? Of course he is. He says "frak." *grin*


SueB said...

Great interview! Love the bit about your first sell - how inspiring! Very cool!

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